When I was in Portugal last November, I was a part of something life changing. I had the opportunity to participate in afternoon coffee break. I was in Portugal for ten days with my husband, who was there for a business trip. He would go to work during the day, and I would tour around. For the first few days, I toured around by myself, which was great, but I really wanted someone to show me the ropes since I was the only spouse who came. The second full day we were there, we went to dinner with my husbands coworkers and another couple who lived in this part of Portugal. They were American, but could speak the language fluently, and lived in a small village outside of the bigger city. She offered to show me around the next day, and we hit it off immediately. What was supposed to be one day, ended up being everyday I was there.
I was fortunate to meet people from all over the world during the days. Yes, she would show me the amazing sites, but we would always have a coffee time arranged with people in the afternoon at about one o’clock. Each day it would be someone different. Almost everyone we met with had to work, but the whole city would stop for three hours just for a cup of coffee. And it was not just any old cup of coffee, it was truly the best cup of espresso I have ever had the opportunity to drink. I have been to Italy, and the coffee there was amazing, but Portuguese coffee, was life changing. It was amazing not just for the flavor, but for the reason we were drinking it; to talk.
I went in to each coffee break not knowing the person I was sitting across from, but by the end, I felt like they were family. Portuguese, Belgium, French, American, did not matter where we were from, we could communicate through broken English and lots of hand gestures. But what was even more amazing is that none of them had a phone on the table. You guys know exactly what I mean. You know when we meet with friends, and all of our phones are on the table, so we can receive text messages, Facebook updates, etc. So we can keep track of the time to make it to the next event that we can hurry through. Oh no, there was no hurrying here, just a sense of what you have to say matters. Slow, meaningful and beautiful.
When the coffee break was over, there was no hurrying of the jackets, running out the door and waving frantically goodbye. There was kissing of the cheeks, walking out the door together, and in some cases, walking them back to work. I felt as though I mattered, little old me, in a foreign country, with people I have never met.
Upon returning, I could not help but notice the rush of our world. The meetings I had with others seemed fast and furious. I missed the cups of coffee and the meaningful talk, when people would actually answer the question of how they were doing. One Sunday during our Bible study, I made the comment that if we just took the time to talk to others, not worrying about the time or circumstances, then we would see God and maybe so would the other. I am not saying that we need to forget our responsibilities, but instead schedule a time to sit down with someone when our schedules are not booked. We put down our phones, hide them , and not worry about the next thing that we are going to be late for. As I suggested this, people looked at me as though I were a little nuts and nodded there heads.
But something happened after that class that changed me again. An older gentleman, who is a Ph.D in philosophy, came up to me and said, “I will take you up on that offer for coffee.” My first thought was, “I do not know if I am smart enough to talk with him!” And my second thought, “Here is my opportunity , so don’t piss it away.” We ended up going to coffee, and again, it changed my world. The thoughts he brought in were amazing, and I even gave him some things to ponder as well. In fact we ended up shutting down the coffee shop!
I have walked away from this experience realizing that if we all just took the time to show each other that our differences and opinions matter and are cared for, the world can be changed. A time with no interruptions, looking at the other individual in the eye, seeing their hurts, their cares, their life experiences, this grows compassion and love. This opens the doors for change. More than any like on Facebook could ever do.
Here’s to coffee.
Have a very relaxing Sunday everyone!